Film vs. Digital: Side by Side Comparison of 35mm, Medium Format, and Mirrorless Photos

Just tuning in to the film vs. digital discussions? Step right up: we have just the stuff for you to check out and learn from.

Yes, it’s already 2019, but it looks like we’re still not done with film vs. digital shenanigans. But, more than a topic of debate, this video by Shutterstock Tutorials is a side by side comparison that should actually come in useful whether you’re a pure digital shooter curious about the film look, or a hybrid shooter wanting a more detailed study of how each medium compares.

Video journalist Logan Baker took the task of shooting with three cameras for this comparison; a Sony a7sii for mirrorless digital, a Pentax K1000 for 35mm film, and a Mamiya 645 for 120 film. Both film cameras were loaded with Kodak Portra 400 (a pretty good choice, as many film photographers would tell you). He also had an Epson V600 scanner ready to scan the film negatives. Let’s see how his shoot and comparison fared in the video:

As we see, the test yielded a variety of results, from the digital photos showing more details, clearer textures, and more saturated colors, to the film photos looking less contrasty and grainy but also “more alive.” The film photos sometimes performed better in some shots, but as expected, the digital did great overall in terms of sharpness and color. That shouldn’t be surprising at all, as we all know film comes from an earlier technology.

But, as Baker noted in the video, it’s not about singling out the better medium. It’s more to give an idea on what to expect for those thinking of shooting film (or even going medium format, for those who have been shooting only with 35mm films).

There’s a lot of variables at play in all three mediums, especially with film. But, this comparison is actually a good representation of the results you’ll get as a pro-sumer photographer with access to pro-sumer tools. You’d obviously get better results if you get the films scanned professionally by an expert in a film developing lab, but that’s for another story.

You can also check out the Shutterstock Blog post for more on this comparison.

Check out the Shutterstock Tutorials YouTube channel for more of their photography tips and tricks.


Screenshot image from the video by Shutterstock Tutorials